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Former firefighter Brian MacDonald is back home in Oban facing the most ferocious fight of his life.
After battling flames and saving lives in Glasgow for 13 years, the 42-year-old has returned to his home town and his mother, determined to give his best shot at living with the shock diagnosis of motor neurone disease.
Brian had been struggling to lift his left arm in the shower but it was only when he struggled to pull himself into the driving seat of a fire engine on a ‘shout’ to a house fire one night that he went off sick and got help from a neurologist.
‘My left arm was half the size of my right arm but I’d never noticed before,’ said Brian, who was told on his birthday that he had the most aggressive type of the disease.
‘I just felt lost. Surely not not me. It was devastating. I’d been hoping it was a disc and nerve problem,’ he said.
He went back to work on light duties, organising home safety checks and giving talks in schools but as his condition worsened he had to give up the job he loved and make the hardest decision to leave his partner and her children in Glasgow to come home this month.
His legs have weakened now and he keeps falling.
‘I just needed to come home, to be closer to my family. I need more support. I miss my partner Angela terribly but I need to be here,’ he said.
‘I’m taking part in a clinical trial just now. I’ll need to have three lumbar punctures and I won’t know if I’m getting the drug or the placebo. Even after the 21 months, there’s no guarantee I’ll be given the drug if it works. I feel like a guinea pig but if there’s a chance to be had, I’ll take it.
‘It’s like living with a death sentence. It’s hard. The life expectancy for someone living in Scotland with my type of motor neurone is 18 months. I’ll never put a time frame on it. As long as I can still smile and have a blether, I’ll be happy. We’ve all got to go sometime. None of us knows when the big switch is going down so we have to make the most of every day,’ he added.
Brian’s dad Bruce, his brother, uncles and cousins have all served in the fire service and now his close friend George Berry, also a former firefighter, is rallying to help.
George is organising a die-cast model show this weekend at Benderloch’s Victory Hall to raise funds for his pal’s welfare and raise awareness of motor neurone disease. The show is open on Saturday September 14 from 10am to 5pm and on Sunday September 15 from 10am until 4pm. Admision is £2.50 for adults and £1.50 c0ncessions.
For those who cannot get to the show, there are donation tins at Soroba shop, Connel village shop, the Halfway House filling station and at Poppies near Dunbeg.
George said: ‘To have been in the fire service, several qualities are desired – you have to be a team player, someone who shows courage in the face of fear, someone who can interact with anyone and has a spark. Brian had and still has all of those but he is not a registered charity. He needs Oban’s help. We want to help raise funds for his welfare so he can get what he needs.’
A rain cover for the mobility scooter his mother bought him will cost about £600.